YMCA staff and members celebrated Valrico resident Fernando ‘Nando’ Roque’s 101st birthday.

It’s not often that an exercise gym offers its members cake and other treats after a fitness class, but when one of those members is turning 101, it makes an exception.

Campo Family YMCA staff and members couldn’t resist throwing the celebration when they found out Valrico resident and centenarian Fernando ‘Nando’ Roque would soon be celebrating another birthday.

Roque, a World War II veteran, faithfully attends SilverSneakers classes twice a week. SilverSneakers is a health, exercise and wellness program that helps older adults live healthy, active lifestyles by building muscular strength, improving joint mobility and increasing cardiovascular endurance.

“Some of the class members knew his birthday was coming up and wanted to do something special to help him celebrate,” said Wellness Experience Director Alex Stafanes.

It was truly a group effort to pull the event together. Members volunteered to make a cake and desserts; the fitness instructor decorated the room and ended class a little early so they could sing “Happy Birthday,” have cake and socialize; and several people gave speeches in his honor, including Roque himself.

“You just have to keep going,” he said.

Roque has certainly enjoyed a full life. He was born in 1921, when the world was reeling from a different sort of pandemic (the Spanish Flu). He was in the U.S. Army from 1940-43 as a gunner. Stationed in Europe, he was the lone survivor of his battalion, who were all killed in action. Shortly after returning from his tour of duty, he met and married Julia, the love of his life. She passed away in 2015. Roque has four children and dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren.

He was grateful that people took the effort to throw him the celebration that had more than 30 people in attendance.

“He was so excited and happy we were doing this for him, he even dressed up for the occasion,” said Stefanes. “As a WWII U.S. Army veteran and a regular participant in our group fitness classes, it was an honor to celebrate with him today.”

For more information about the Campo Family YMCA or SilverSneakers classes, visit www.tampaymca.org or call 813-684-1371.

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Michelle Caceres
MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.